#RPGaDAY, Last Year: Day 26 – Coolest Character Sheet

dw_sheet_compAround this time last year, the #RPGaDAY topic was Coolest Character Sheet. Luckily, I was behind my postings, so I was able to see a bunch of neat character sheets I had forgotten all about. Ross reminded me of Daniel Solis’ (John Harper’s?) character sheet for Dead Weight, which I think is not a completed game. It’s a parkour game in a zombie apocalypse, and one of the first games based on Apocalypse World. If I recall correctly, that “loot carried” area was supposed to be for coins that represent what your character is carrying. If it doesn’t fit in the box, you’ve got to drop something.[1]

Anyway, I should really talk about a game that I actually own.

Oh, there’s the character sheet I made for John Wick’s Shotgun Diaries, which looks just like a small Hello Kitty notebook and contains the character information (and rules) as a journal entry, but I should really look at an official character sheet.

Man. It’s so hard to find a good character sheet that presents the information needed to play a character in a clean, logical way, and is pleasing to look at. There was a character sheet I created for Savage Worlds a few years ago, but there’s so much information needed to be presented on the sheet,  it’s really too dense to follow. Other big games, like Pathfinder, have the game logo as the most prominent thing on the sheet, which naturally draws the eye to the logo. That’s the most important information on the sheet, but it really isn’t.

Wait a sec. While I’ve been writing this up, I’ve been going through my PDFs. Right there, in my John Harper folder[2] , is Wildlings. Look at that sheet. Lots of white space, great icons, what actions the icons are used for, and the ten adverbs for play. A large logo for the game, but that’s not what the eye is drawn to – it’s those icons and those circles. Then you read the game information around the circles, and as you go down, there’s the adverbs you hit after scanning over (and barely registering) the name of the game. It’s a good character sheet.
wildlingsI like it.

It’s a year later. You still go nuts over John Harper’s stuff?

Oh yeah, he does great layout. Take a look at his site for some neat stuff, like Lady Blackbird and the guys below. Oh, and I’ve got plenty — too many — roleplaying games where the protagonists are thieves, but I still backed his Blades in the Dark Kickstarter campaign at a level where I gained access to his InDesign files. Yeah, $45 so I could get the game and “also get the source files for the game, artwork, handout materials, and all the maps”. Totally worth it. I’ve been able to pull apart the Ghost Lines game to see what tricks he pulled in a three-page game. I can’t wait to see how he put together over 200 pages of material, including a 170(ish) page long form book.

  1. This would also make Dead Weight one of the few Apocalypse World-driven games that doesn’t have word “World” in the title. []
  2. One of the few in my RPGs folder where we have things saved by designer, not genre. []

#RPGaDAY, Last Year: Day 24 – Coolest Looking RPG

Last year, I was asked to write about the Coolest looking RPG product/book I have.

I’m not going to name anything I’ve worked on here, because (a) I don’t want to appear as someone that thinks his own work is superior to those of others and (b) when I look back on things I’ve worked on, I just see elements that I should correct or improve.

Recent purchase, that’s FFG’s Star Wars line of games. I went on and on about Age of Rebellion earlier on the 4th. Rather than repeat myself, let’s just link it in.[1]

Slightly older book[2] , I’m gonna go with Mouse Guard. It’s a cool looking book and, like the Hellboy RPG and Marvel Heroic, designed to fit the form factor of the actual comic. The overleaf, the treatment of each page’s outside margin, the color of the ink chosen (and the typography), and one of the best uses of licensed artwork in an RPG.

Mouse Guard uses a book design element used in most of Luke Crane’s games (and in Fate’s Atomic Robo): three icons to indicate important passages of text (which, in any other game, would be a sidebar). I am not a fan of this technique. I feel it often doesn’t work the way it is intended, and it interrupts the flow of the text. Here, in Mouse Guard, it actually complements the layout design instead of detracting from it.[3]

Everything about the look of the Mouse Guard book is fantastic.

There is no credit in the book for graphic design or book layout, so I’m assuming it was Luke Crane himself. Good show, sir! Not everyone can layout their own work, yet alone do it this well. (There are so many other games on the market that speak for that!)

What about today, sir?

Man, I still have to back to Fantasy Flight Games’ Star Wars RPG line. The art direction is simply stunning.

  1. Original link: https://plus.google.com/+ThomasDeeny/posts/a8oKdEwVyr5 []
  2. Which would be 2008. []
  3. For everything I like about the layout of Atomic Robo, that’s the one thing I wish was dropped or done in a different way. []

#RPGaDAY, Last Year: Day 20 – What RPG Would You Be Playing In 20 Years?

“What RPG would you still be playing twenty years from now,” asks #RPGaDAY today.

Well, twenty years ago, I was playing Dungeons & Dragons and Shadowrun. The two most recent games I’ve played were Dungeons & Dragons and Shadowrun. In twenty years from now, it would probably be one of those two games.

Nah. It’s not Shadowrun.

srrIcon_hi-resBoth games are on their fifth edition now, and looking back over them, Shadowrun has been enamored with complexity in an attempt at realistically simulating how grenades and bullets would work in a world where there are cybernetic elves casting magic spells at six-foot-tall wasps that primarily aren’t physical creatures. The complexity of running any sort of combat in Shadowrun 5th Edition is as thick as any of the earlier versions. Over the last twenty years, I’ve been favoring games that are lighter, faster, and allow for more time for story. Two decades from now, I’ll want something even more like that – Shadowrun isn’t that game and shows no change in that direction.

Aside: If we’re talking games with heists, Leverage does it so much better. The part about Shadowrun I absolutely hate is the planning phase, where I sit around doing nothing for an hour or two while the players discuss exactly how they are going to break into the location, despite the shit hitting the fan two dice rolls later and everyone is improvising. I also want to run Will Hindmarch’s Dark when that comes out, but I’m afraid that I’m getting burnt out on the infiltration/heist game mode. We’ll see.

There’s also another thing that I strongly dislike in the current (and most past) versions of Shadowrun: doing nearly everything seems to require a bazillion dice rolls. Oh, if the summoning action was like Apocalypse World!

When you summon a spirit, roll+Magic. A spirit appears and owes you one service. On a major hit, choose two from the following list. On a minor hit, choose one. On a miss, you take massive drain.

  • It owes you two more services.
  • It owes you two more services.
  • You take no drain.

Bam, over and done.

D&D 5 is a pretty neat game. Unlike the massive rules bloat of 3rd and 3.5, where the DMG has about eight hundred words devoted to rules about door hinges, the more recent editions had taken a step backwards to an easier game. 4th Edition tried to play faster than 3.5 (until you got to high-enough levels where the players at the table had too many game-move options that analysis paralysis set in to bog things down). 5th Edition’s combat rules are about ten pages long. Let me restate that:

The rules for fighting creatures, the primary thing characters do in Dungeons & Dragons, is contained in less than ten pages.

That’s amazing. Combat is about as quick as it was back in AD&D 2nd edition. You can go and fight and have more story in a game session. In twenty years, I expect that my styles would continue to go more towards rules-light games[1] that can let the narrative shine through.

And if I’m not playing that in twenty years, I’m probably playing Fate.

And now, Thomas? What would you be playing in nineteen years from now?

I’m really impressed with how simple D&D 5 is to run. If Dungeons & Dragons continues on the trajectory away from the bloat of 3.5, all the better — I’ll probably be playing Dungeons & Dragons 8 or whatever rules-light system is around then. Maybe Primetime Adventures.

  1. I never thought I’d say that about Dungeons & Dragons. []